Dear Cassey: Should I start my workout with cardio or strength?

Dear Cassey,

Should I do cardio or strength first when I work out? Assuming I do a warm-up first, which one is more beneficial to start with? I want to get maximum health benefits out of working out, without injury or burnout.


Careful About the Order

Cassey Ho Blogilates strength workout

Dear Careful,

I’m really glad you brought this up! I feel like it’s a question so many people have, whether they’re just getting started or they’re troubleshooting a plateau in their fitness goals.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us prefer either cardio OR strength. But the most important thing is that you’re doing BOTH! Strength and cardio both do amazing and very different things for our bodies. Some people prefer to split them up on different days, and some people enjoy doing a little of both in the same workout! That part is totally up to you.

Really, the order can technically come down to preferenc,e too. Doing it either way is FINE and helps you get stronger and burn calories. But if you want to get sciency and/or your goal involves toning, building muscle, and/or burning fat, it’s usually better to do weight training first. Then cardio! There are a few reasons for this:

You’re going to be more focused in the first part of your workout. Weight training takes focus. If you’re already tired from your cardio workout, you might lose some mental energy for your strength routine.

Your body uses short bursts of energy first. Unless your cardio workout involves sprints, it makes more sense to use those initial short bursts of energy for lifting.

Cardio first could fatigue some muscles you need for strength training. If you wear yourself out with cardio first, you might not get as much out of your strength workout. Your form could also be more sloppy.

Weight training first could boost your calorie burn. One of the perks of strength training is the continued calorie burn as your muscles recover. If you hit the weights first, you keep burning those extra calories even as you start your cardio workout.

So if you’re trying to build muscle, lose weight or want optimal energy when you hit the weights, I’d suggest either doing cardio at the end of your workout or divvying up the days altogether!

HOWEVERRR. If you’re working on endurance, working on your running pace, etc., it could be better to put your initial focus on cardio. Like anything in fitness, it all depends on your goals!

Two things to wrap up. One, yes of course stick to some kind of warm-up first, no matter what kind of workout you’re doing. And two, the most important thing is that you’re getting both strength and cardio in. If you find that you feel better doing cardio first, or you’re just more motivated when you start with cardio, stick with that! The science can say one thing, but you know your body.

Which do you prefer – strength or cardio first?! Tell me in the comments! 

PS – If you have a burning question you want to ask me, leave your questions below! I may answer it in an upcoming Dear Cassey post!

50 thoughts on “Dear Cassey: Should I start my workout with cardio or strength?”

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  1. Nicole L says:

    What’s best for peri-menopausal women to do? Strength more or cardio more? Many thanks!

  2. Building strength says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I recently started following Blogilates workouts in order to build strength and confidence, but I’ve found that I’m also losing weight, which I don’t actually want to do – I’m already small for my height! I want to continue to build strength and stamina, but most workout programs, especially those directed to women, are targeted towards losing weight instead of things like building muscle. How do I continue to work out regularly without losing more weight?

  3. Building Stamina says:

    Dear Cassey,

    I keep trying to get back into running. I have listened to your video from a few weeks back about how to start running but I was wondering what is the best way to increase endurance to be able to get started? Almost all beginners plans I see are C25k/walk&run intervals, which is really repetitive and hasn’t helped with lung capacity. I can easily walk a 5k+, distance isn’t the issue. I just get winded really early on and don’t feel like there’s a good complimentary plan for beginners other than run more 🙁

  4. anonymous says:

    Dear Cassey,

    Burning question! I eat relatively balanced and try to work out a few times a week. I want to be strong, but I’d also like to be slender. I know that being skinny isn’t important and I’m not really concerned with being super skinny or fixated on a specific weight. But I feel like when I work out, I end up just getting thicker rather than becoming lean and toned, like the muscles are just building up under the fat. I do both strength and cardio, especially HIIT. I thought that the more muscle you have, the faster you burn fat, but I’m not sure that’s working for me. I know that sleep, diet, water, and exercise are all important. Is there anything else I should know? How can I work towards being lean AND toned, not just one or the other?
    Struggling With Thickness

  5. A says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I have recently gained back all the weight I lost in the past year, and I’ve lost all my confidence. I’m just beginning to accept and love my body while still trying to make progress and lose weight. I’ve been taking advantage of the pandemic and been staying home from most small, safe gatherings because I don’t want people to see that I’ve let myself go. I’ve been hoping for change and waiting to go in public until I’ve lost weight that I may never lose. How do I gain back my confidence and stop caring about what other people think?
    Embarrassed by Myself

  6. Linda Campbell says:

    Dearest Cassey,
    I am obsessed with you, your amazing attitude, personal transformation and your overall self! I wished I could follow everyday; meals as well but have a few challenges 😢

    Question…I have a leg muscle injury, a foot brace and will be starting physio to help heal. Will I still be able to do the workouts in your challenge?

  7. Sandra says:

    Dear Cassey,

    I have a question about sweets. Is it really unhealthy to have them every day? I am talking mostly about baked goods, chocolate and ice cream (which are my favorite). I see very mixed opinions and informations in the internet and I am really confused. I am trying to eat healthy (every day lots of veggies and fruits), but not restricting myself too much. I don’t always crave sweets, but there are periods of time when I will feel like having, let’s say chocolate, three or four days in a row. I don’t know, should I restrict myself, or just give in until I’m satisfied? I would very much appreciate your help with that.

    Best regards,
    Confused Sandra

    1. anonymous says:

      I have the same question! Chocolate and dessert is my weak point, but I know that restricting probably isn’t going to turn out well for me. I hope Cassey answers this post.

    2. Sammy says:

      Hi Sandra, I read your comment and thought I could be of some help, as I’ve been reading up a LOT on nutrition lately. I think a *small* amount of sweets every day isn’t too bad if it makes you happy, but ultimately it is better to have them less often (or find healthy options like dark chocolate or there are lots of recipes for healthier version of baked goods). In my experience, the more sweets I eat, the more I crave them, and I recently read the science behind this (it has to do with which bacteria we feed in our gut but I’m no expert so I won’t try to explain it). I think it’s great that you’re eating lots of fruits and veggies too, that will help for sure because your body will start to crave those things more as you eat them more. I think if you focus on eating lots of healthy food so that your body craves those MORE then you are totally okay to give into those sweets cravings every now and again. Most importantly, do what makes you happy!! Wishing you luck on your journey, hope I was some help.

  8. Jeanett Due Bøhler says:

    If I do both at the same day, I do cardio first. It is easier to start with. Sometimes I just plan to only do cardio because I don’t have motivation for strengt exercise. But then I get more energy from doing the cardio and do some strength after all. But I will try doing it the other way around because I want to be more focues when training muscles. ^_^

  9. Thanks for sharing this article. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  10. Leah says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I am very happy with my lifestyle right now, after years of overeating and feeling really bad about my weight I am in a really good place right now where I just enjoy eating clean and working out so much as it makes me really happy.
    But I find myself having uncomfortable thoughts, when it comes to other people, especially to my boyfriend right now. You see, he loves eating junk food and chocolate and he is barely working out.
    As I found so much joy in this lifestyle, I am automatically assuming that it might work for him as well and that he could win so much from adapting his lifestyle a little.
    The question is: How can I handle this? I don’t want to change him, I don’t want to give him the feeling, that my love depends on any of this – of course it doesn’t. Can I be a source of inspiration without making him feel that he is obliged to change? Can I give suggestions and ideas or does this always come with some form of judgement? How can I share what I have learned without devaluing the path that he is on?
    It would be really great to hear your opinion about this.
    Thank you so much for all your content, I love working out with you!
    Greetings from Germany 🙂
    Someone being confused about sharing inspiration.

  11. Audrey says:

    Cassie, if we are intermediate or advanced, should we do the summer sculpt or continue with regularly scheduled workouts?

  12. Anu says:

    I have done various workouts at home to regain my shape as I became overweight due to my studies during this lockdown I gained my shape but my breast size was decreased by the process what are the various ways I can regain my boob shape and size and I want to know which food is best for this process .

  13. Cherry says:

    Lol! I usually do whatever room at the gym that is less crowded. My gym is set up with a BIG cardio room, a free weight room, and then a humongous weight room. Also, we have a tennis volleyball basketball room inside and out and spin classroom and room for yoga classes.

  14. Vanessa Wikel says:

    Why choose either or first? Why not combined them! I do something challenging cardiovascularly and physically so I get the benefits of both worlds at the same time and to get that I do vinyasa yoga, or cross country hiking, hiit cardio, or Cassey’s’ PIIT program. I find I start to lose my shapely muscle, get injured, am always tired, and especially get burned out, when I focus on cardio…like jogging, speed walking or cardio dance. I hate cardio unless it’s HIIT or cardio dance. So I ensure every “cardio” portion of my workout really engages my muscles so I am maintaining lean muscle mass. Then when I do muscle isolation for building the glutes and slimming down the thighs, I do HIIT pilates and some weight lifting/band work. So a typical week will look like vinyasa yoga, PIIT, glute day, vinyasa yoga, pilates for legs, glute day, cross country hiking is my active rest. I’ve been into fitness and athletics in general since I was 13 and am 35. I’ve had no issues maintaining or losing weight with this approach as I’m preserving lean muscle mass. No you will not get bulky doing resistance training, you will however shape your muscle fibers and if you want a lean and long look, go with vinyasa yoga and pilates, otherwise do more traditional weight lifting splits.

  15. Hopeless in the kitchen says:

    Dear Cassey,

    I wonder if you can give some advice on having a meal plan when you’re not the only one living in the house, and your meals are pretty much tied to the other person’s as well, while staying on budget?

    My partner and I live quite different lifestyle despite living together. I love exercising, and I’m actively doing training a few times a week (mostly martial arts related), and when I’m at home I do home exercises like the ones I found on your channel (it took awhile for me to enjoy working out at home, but lockdown basically forced me to do it, and since I had nothing else to do due to losing a lot of my work at the time, I ended up working out A LOT during this time to combat boredom and restlessness). In the meantime, my partner doesn’t exercise, though this bugs me, I know he’s actually fit, he’s the type of person who prefers to walk up and down the hill to the supermarket, he’d walk across town instead of driving or catching a bus, he’d do a lot of lifting around the house when doing maintenance, etc. My partner is the one who cooks, because me in the kitchen = disaster (and no, cooking classes didn’t help). Simply put, I never found the joy in cooking (and absolutely hate it when people tell me that I haven’t tried hard enough, because I’ve tried very hard. Maybe some people are just not wired to operate a kitchen), while my partner loves cooking, so he cooks for us.

    I would love to follow a meal plan to go with my exercise programs, because despite being active and regularly exercising I find it difficult to get into the shape I want or maintain it, and I know from past experience that meals play a huge part on fitness goals, so I know I need to put attention to this. However, I find it very hard to have a meal plan firstly because I have some rather complicated dietary requirements due to food intolerances (which manifested late and we had to make huge adjustments after finding out), so it’s already limited as it is for us, since we’d need to find something that I can have and both of us like, plus not to mention having two separate meal plans would mean we’d blow our grocery budget (we are on a tight budget). There are places that can cater but I can’t afford them. Whenever I showed some recipes from a meal plan to my partner, we couldn’t agree on any because it’s not something he likes and most of the times the recipes don’t leave any leftovers. In saying that though, we normally eat reasonably healthy anyway because thanks to my food intolerances I’m forced to watch what I eat and it basically rules out junk food, processed food, and A LOT of snacks.

    Overall, I can still manage most breakfasts and lunches, because we can do our own things and I can still at least do something very quick and simple with my almost non-existent kitchen skills, but when it comes to dinner we pretty much go for something that can satisfy both of us while still being me friendly and will leave us leftovers for at least a couple of days.

    Please help. I would love to have a COMPLETE meal plan to help me with my fitness goals but I also don’t want to force my partner into the meal plan he doesn’t want while still staying on budget, especially since it’ll affect our groceries list. I don’t know how to go about this.

    Thank you.

  16. Aleksandra says:

    Can you recommend best excersises to banish cellulite ?

  17. delta 8 says:

    I can’t bring myself to start my exercises with cardio, I can only start stretching my body very smoothly. I also like to spend, instead of training, just 40-50 minutes of stretching the whole body. I was not flexible before, but when I started to study 5 years ago, I saw that everything is possible. And for a year she quietly sat down on a twine In general, I rarely feel like doing cardio, but I sometimes force myself to go for a run, so as not to lose my stamina.!

  18. Dana says:

    To illustrate my comment about fat, I figured out the fat percentages of Day 1 and Day 3 of the plan I chose (Pescatarian Level 2). The fat percentage from Day 1 comes out to about 46 percent of the day’s total calories. The fat percentage from Day 3 comes out to 57.9 percent of the day’s total calories! The fat grams range from in the 70s to the 90s per day. The national dietary guidelines recommended for fat from calories is from 20 to 35 percent (just a guideline but still). I remember you said that you found success when fat was around 30 percent of the total calories. I suspect that 30 percent would be better for me too. I weigh about 116 and want to lose fat around the midsection/get more toned. But why are the percentages from fat so high and not closer to standard dietary guidelines? I’m confused. I don’t want to quit, but I think I need to modify the plan to try to cut out the fat … like don’t eat the half of avocado in the recipe, skip the pecans in the salad, etc. This plan has me eating more fat than my husband who is 6′ 2″ and fairly active. And I’m 5′ 2″ and very active. Does anyone have any insight to share? Thanks.

    1. Breanna Woods says:

      Hi Dana!
      I’m the RD who helped Cassey build these plans, so I wanted to jump in and help with this 🙂 You’re totally right that this is a pretty high-fat plan! However, eating high fat doesn’t interfere with fat loss or make you gain weight. This is especially true because as you pointed out, the majority of the fat in these plans are healthy fats.

      Ultimately, Cassey found during her own journey that focusing on protein and healthy fats helped her stay full, satiated, energized, and less bloated. That being said, different things work for everyone! If you feel like eating less fat is better for you, that is totally fine! We built these meal plans to make them easy to customize for that reason. Because really, no single meal plan will work for everyone right? Learning how to modify is the key to making it sustainable for you 🙂 So in your case, I’d recommend increasing protein or carbs to make up for lowering the amount of fat you’re eating to avoid undereating! Hope this helps!

  19. Dana says:

    Hi Cassey!
    I’m almost two weeks into the 90 Day Journey (Pescaterian Level 2) Things are going well, but I have a question about the amount of fat in the plan. I love to eat healthy fats — don’t get me wrong — but am I reading the macros correctly? One day of meals has a fat gram total of 75, another has 92. This seems like a lot of fat for 1,500 calories a day. Would you please explain the amount of fat in the plan? I generally don’t get caught up in fat gram counting. I know this is just a guide, but it seems high.

  20. Lara says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I started losing weight because ı wanted to be healthier. I workout 35 minutes a day for 5 days and I try my best to walk everyday. Im finally at my goal weight but while I was looking at the mirror I didn’t like what I saw. I have started to eat less and I get nightmares of me eating “unhealthy foods”. A similar thing happened to a family friend of ours and I promised my parents that it wouldn’t happen to me. How do I maintain my weight and start eating normally again
    Yours sincerely
    A lost teen

  21. Balance Seeking Muslim says:

    Dear Cassey,
    Ramadan has just started and so I have been fasting. I love working out and eating healthy, but it is so hard to do a workout when you feel tired and exhausted. I also find it so hard to eat healthy after I break my fast, since I just want to stuff my face after not eating all day. I want to be able to find a balance and maybe learn how to do this during the month of Ramadan?

  22. Robin says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I’ve been following blogilates from over a year now and consciously working on my diet. It has been a wonderful journey and I’ve very proud of my progress – I’ve gained so much confidence and strength and lost 50 lbs. I would like to be a little bit more toned though and I think I’ve hit a plateau. I’m doing the same things I’ve been doing for the past three months, and the scale and measurements aren’t moving. What would you recommend to get past the plateau? I do the weightless exercises and they are still hard (!), but should I go harder, longer, faster, etc? Should I add weights and/or bands? Should I do more cardio and less strength, or more strength and less cardio? Should I count calories and aggressively track my food (I’m not doing that now, but making sure to be mindful. My diet is overall very clean. Maybe I need to eat more though?) I get very confused and overwhelmed because there are SO many factors and I could adjust so much, but I know I should take it one step at a time. I also feel frustrated though because I want to keep making progress towards my fitness and health goals. Please advise! Thank you!!

  23. Jessica says:

    Cassey, thank you so so much for all the work you do for us. From the workout videos to answering our questions. I have started incorporating more weights into my workouts and I would love if you would make more/bigger weights. I have the 5 and 8 pound ones and they are starting to get too easy 🤯🤯. And I love how cute your dumbbells are so I don’t want to buy ugly ones if you have new bigger ones coming out soon. 🧡🧡

  24. Emily says:

    Ooh that’s an interesting one! I think I usually end up doing cardio first – I like working out in the morning and doing cardio feels like a good way to wake up my body and my brain! But I’ll have to try doing some strength training first next time and see if I notice a difference! Xx

  25. Cassey, I am 18 years old and I am pursuing CA and it is just 2 months for the exam(CA exams are considered to be the most difficult exam in our country). Being on my 90-day journey, managing a group where I post(every day) what I eat in a day, workout for the day, and my feelings. I have started a new series of #embracingflaws where each week I would take my insecurities and would find ways to embrace my flaws through this journey. I just not want myself to grow but I want to grow and get better together.
    Sometimes, things really bother me, when people are not responding (when I try really hard to take them with me through my journey FROM MY FAMILY TO MY GROUP MEMBERS) for all my efforts.
    How to balance between my studies and my journey Cassey
    this journey is really important to me Cassey because I just want to make myself feel stronger and your workouts are only a joy to my stressful work. Please help me with this Cassey.

  26. Nourhane says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I am a skinny girl with a little shape what can I do to get my body in more shape without being more skinnier

  27. Vidushi Sandhir says:

    Hey Casey -when I see some of your workouts, like 12 min to Toned cardio, I feel its a mix of strength (no weights) and cardio. Am I correct?

  28. KatyHart95 says:

    Hi Cassey.
    I love working out, I started with 20min workouts and then 30min now I’m up to 1h and 30min. I have been seeing results.
    And I’m diet is relatively healthy. We do cut out carbs and sugar. But there are times that I eat alot. And sometimes it’s pizza and dessert. I enjoy it alot but I feel horrible about eating the bad foods sometimes. I’m just worried it might effect my weight loss journey.
    Love your videos!

  29. April in May says:

    Dear Cassey,
    In the last year I lost my period completely whilst on the keto diet. I tried to build up my courage to quit keto, yet I am terrified of gaining back fat and all the weight after learning about all that “keto science”. How should I incorporate back carbs and get back my period without the weight gain? I also normally do weight training and cardio everyday yet I still struggle to build muscle. To what extent is sleep a key factor in muscle building? Since sometimes, I have to stay up late and only get max 6 hours of sleep a day from school work. Is my disrupted sleeping pattern and keto diet somewhat endangering my health?

    a worried teen

    1. Worried for you says:

      Cassey recently released a video about losing one’s period. I think it’s likely that weight gain is necessary to regain your period, and as Cassey says in the video, it’s super important to get it back! It’s a sign that your body is going into survival mode, so you may not be able to build much muscle while your body is in that kind of state. Similarly, sleep is super important for your body to function. It may function with very little sleep, but to function *well* you may need to prioritize sleep a little more. I am a grad student and I relate to the struggle of balancing sleep, physical health, and school work. I usually put my sleep ahead of my school work because I know if I’m not well rested, I’m not going to think as well, and my work will take even longer and be lower quality. I hope you can talk to a registered dietician or nutritionist and see what is the best plan for you!

  30. Carmen says:

    Hi Casey, whenever I tried to do abs exercise that involves rolling up my upper body, gas will start gurgling in my stomach (I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It is extremely bothering! Is there any abs and core exercise for the upper abs that you would recommend where I don’t need to ‘roll up’ the body? Thanks!

    1. Lily says:

      Some awesome ab exercises would be flutters, double leg lifts, hip twists or planks. All are super engaging for your abs and core.

    2. Rinnie says:

      Dead bugs are also great for that, they work all of your core without having to roll up. I will do a set moving opposing limbs, and then a set moving limbs on each side. If you aren’t familiar with dead bugs, you can google it, or Cassey may have some videos here.

  31. Victoria W says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I have a few things to tell you and a few questions,
    First of all I wanted to tell you that I started to follow your workout last week.
    I love them so much and you Ame the exact moment I am about to give up to say a motivative quote. ( thanks) because I never end up by giving up.
    I have always eaten quite healthy but I m still in lockdown and I can’t play tennis anymore so I have been a little choby which I defiantly want to change. I can’t afford to buy your Meal Journeys which is a shame.
    I want to be strong again just like you and I want to be happy with the way my body looks like. I hope that that is what will happen after 1 month or so.
    I also wanted to ask you how many times in a week do I need to repeat your transformation workout series to see a result?
    I think that you are perfect just the way you are and you inspire me so much; I will become as fit and pretty and sexy as you are.
    Love xoxo

    1. Stronger on the inside says:

      It can take several weeks to increase strength, and sometimes that change is not visible. Cassey has talked about struggling with the way she thinks about her belly since she has a super strong core and still doesn’t have a visible six-pack. Personally, I like to focus on things like do I feel stronger, can I take fewer breaks than before, can I do more reps or heavier weights than I used to because the visible change for me is very small even with working out 5-6 times a week for months.

  32. Megha says:

    Dear Cassey, for someone like me, who has no access to equipment as i workout at home, how can we still incorporate strength training in our routine?

  33. Smelly wogie says:

    You epic

  34. Jessica Sjouwerman says:

    WHERE DO I GET STARTED?! I want to start my fitness journey so badly, I have bought the 90 journal & meal plan but each time I start within a day or two I drink some alcohol or eat a comfort meal so I feel pressured to start it over again…Should I keep starting over or should I write that stuff down and just keep trying? HELP!!

    1. Naddy says:

      I believe you should just keep going because it’s always a process. You shouldn’t put high expectations like quitting everything you used to eat overnight. Baby steps! I’m on this journey too!

  35. Beth P says:

    Such a great article, thank you Cassey!! I try to divide up my strength and cardio days on different days of the week and also take into account doing 10k steps a day as some of my ‘light cardio’. But I’ll keep this in mind if I want to do both on the same day 🙂

  36. Jenn K says:

    I do t have a preference for either at the start of my workouts. I will base what I start with off my mood and how my body feels that day. If I’m feeling tired I’ll start with cardio to get my body fired up ready to go.
    Thanks for the workouts Cassey. They challenged me a lot since I started getting back on track but I love how I feel when I’m done.

  37. Magdalyn says:

    Hi Cassey, one of your blog posts: Are You Ready For Your Hot Girl Summer Sculpt?! is requiring a password to see the page and info, what is the password for the page?

    1. blogilates says:

      It’s updated now!! 🙂

  38. Caroline says:

    I am trying to build muscle and tone up right now. I also need to improve my cardiovascular endurance. I am having a hard time with diet as well as with my lack of resources. The only weights I have are 5 lbs dumbbells, and I can’t find nor afford bigger weights. How can I build muscle efficiently within my home? And how can I get in more protein on a dairy free diet?

    1. Jessica says:

      I also have this question as well!

    2. Blue says:

      I really get you. I tried to buy 10 lb dumbbells the other day but they were charging 70$ for it. So I got me a set of resistance bands instead. Maybe they would also be something for you? They do not cost the earth and will take your workouts to another level. Cassey has some videos with those bands too! And you could improve your endurance by taking a speedy walk every day. Nothing too crazy, just ten minutes at the beginning. Climbing stairs and Casseys low-impact cardio workouts are also excellent to get your heart rate up without dying 😉
      As for the food, you could try:
      *Mushrooms, spinach, broccoli
      *vegan protein shakes mixed with plant dairy
      *Soy yogurt
      *Legumes (edamame, kidney beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, black beans, peas, lentils…)
      *Meat alternatives like tofu, tempeh, seitan, quorn
      *Nutritional yeast
      *Nuts and nut butters, vegan cheese (not too much though since they‘re calorie-rich)
      *Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds
      *Quinoa, oats

  39. Magdalyn says:

    Dear Cassey, I’m 14 going in 15 in a few months and I was thinking about doing the 90 day journey. I would like to do it because I want to eat healthy and just feel better for myself. However, I’m having thoughts like “is it okay for me to do?” and “should I be doing this at a young age?”. Should I do this journey? From, Confused Teen